Building your own product

Phase 0

In March 2014, I was looking for a new project.

I had an idea to generate sales leads for an up-market sunroom builder , so pitched it, setup a POC and successfully sold the idea.

Phase I

Six months later, the project was up and running, and you can try it here:

So if you are interested in a sunroom and living in Europe, feel free to try the app and submit your contact data.

Disclaimer: because I am a big fan of the no cure, no pay credo, I arranged to get paid on sold units, not on leads, next to a fixed fee and some development costs.

Phase II

As I got more involved in the project, I noticed a big opportunity lying around: I started building a custom CAD application to allow more flexible sunroom designs, in order to shorten the sales feedback cycle and enable the prospect to see what the house extension would look like during the first customer visit.

I rebuilt the whole thing from the ground up, and it steadily is evolving into a usable product.

I included proper roof support structures…

… and got started on the window designers…

The end of phase II ?

Good question!

Stuff always takes 3 times longer than you expect it to, and even when you have a date set there are no guarantees.

I am currently well in phase 2, but as I am out of running out of cash and have a family to support, I considered my options:

Charge more to my customer

I consider my current client one of the more complicated potential use cases, and it will be a hell of a reference, once we have it all up and running.

But, as they were also the ones to believe in my product and my capabilities, I consider it very important to offer them proper value for money.

I believe in long-term relationships built on trust and win-win situations, so I want to avoid becoming a leecher.

I did charge them some development costs over the course of a whole year, but I do not want to charge them to build my own product.

We have a gentlemen’s agreement, and I would like to keep it that way.

Find more customers

The product is designed to be modular and adaptable, so I can build CAD apps for other types of customers as well, and this should be a reasonably short process for some types of my potential customers.

I received a few leads out of the blue, so I know there is potential there.

However, I would feel bad getting started on another client, while the first one is not up and running yet.

Find a partner

I am still in dubio about this one. Sometimes it feels like this is too much to handle for one person, so help would be welcome. However, the only thing I can offer right now, is equity.

Based on the assumption that it will take another year or so, to get up to something that you can actually call a viable business, this would probably imply a lot of equity.

This feels odd, but it might be a necessity.

Find a VC

Similar to finding a partner, VC money might help me to bridge the gap. However, it would probably cost me a lot of equity, which I’m hesitant about.

In the long run, this might be unavoidable, but for now I will defer.

Feel free to make me an offer I cannot refuse.

Sell the product

This is an easy one: no.

Find another project

This looked like the most viable alternative:

  • Find a part-time project, so I can pay the bills and have time left to continue building the product.
  • Find a full-time project, and pay someone else to work on the product.

In the end, this looked like the most viable idea, so I took action:

Finding another project

How do you find a new project quickly? I created a hire me page on my blog, and reached out to my personal network:

The tweet

The amount of feedback I got was flabbergasting, so a big thank you to everyone.

The result

While I got a ton of retweets, and a few very nice offers, the project that I am about to start is coming directly through one of my twitter followers, which I also happen to know from the @DDDBE community events.

In the end, this project was both the most appealing from a tech POV, and it really clicked with the team that I am about to join.

But how about phase II?

Phase II is still on my todo list. I will join the team full-time for the first month, and after that we plan to go part-time, so I can have the best of both worlds.

A big shout-out to both my own project’s customer, my new client and everyone that supported me one way or another over social media.